MLB Playoff Race Preview: Nats Seem Like A Lock, Unlikely O's Hanging On

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 10: (FILE PHOTO) Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Florida Marlins at Nationals Park on August 10 2010 in Washington DC. According to reports August 26 2010 Strasburg has a torn ligament that will require Tommy John elbow surgery. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The two DC/Baltimore area teams have a shot at the playoffs, but here's a playoff race preview, breaking down their chances.

Welcome to a pennant race. For a lot of you this is a new experience. Playoff baseball in the Washington/Baltimore area would be great, but both teams making it? Minds will explode trying to fathom a Battle of the Beltway for a World Series Championship.

How do the odds stack up for both teams?

Well, if you put any stock into ESPN's playoff predictor, the Nationals have the best chance of any team to make the playoffs -- at 99.6%. The Nationals lead the NL East by 5.5 games and are 9 games clear over the Pirates in case a Wild Card birth would be necessary.

Obviously, the Nationals have one black cloud looming over their heads -- the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg. But will losing two or three starts from Strasburg ruin the Nationals playoff chances? In a word, no. Not at all. The loss of Strasburg for 3 starts will not kill the Nationals hopes. Nothing is guaranteed as of now, but the Nationals look well on their way to being a playoff team.

One thing on the Nationals side, is an easy remaining schedule. The Braves have an easier schedule, but not by much. I'd put the Nationals chances at 95% of making the playoffs, and I think they win the NL East.

The Orioles, on the other hand, are much less of a lock. The percentages don't favor the birds at all. The Orioles have just a 31.1% chance according to their match. This is due to the Orioles -44 run differential, a heinous number, but with the Nationals winning so many one-run games they could potentially defy the odds.

The Orioles are getting hot, winning seven of their last ten, and sit just three games behind the Yankees in the AL East. Unfortunately for them, the Oakland Athletics seem unstoppable at the moment and have passed the Orioles for the first Wild Card spot. The Orioles still sit 1.5 clear of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Luckily for the Orioles, they have an easier schedule than other Wild Card contenders, except the Tigers. I'm still struggling with seeing the Orioles making the playoffs with their starting pitchers, but if they can hand a lead off to their bullpen they are nearly impossible to come back on. I'll put the Orioles odds at 50% to make the playoffs, almost certainly in one of the Wild Card spots.

My predictions:

NL East: Nationals

NL Central: Reds

NL West: Giants

NL Wild Cards: Braves and Cardinals

AL East: Yankees

AL Central: White Sox

AL West: Rangers

AL Wild Cards: Athletics and Tigers

Sorry Orioles fans.

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